Thursday, April 28, 2016

Breaking the Chains




With minimal help, lots of research, and a ton of creativity, they pulled it off. 

For weeks, the teens worked in their medium - spoken word, photography, art, music, dance, video, theater, and so much more. They gathered on a Friday evening to show what they had put together. It was the most emotional rehearsal I'd ever witnessed. Once again on Saturday, they took the stage to perform, this time in front of an audience of parents, drug addicts, and strangers. 

Each year, Epoch Arts in East Hampton, CT, responds to a social issue with art. This year's Arts Response was Drug Addiction: Breaking the Chains. Stories of heartache and hope were shared through various artforms. Personal stories of lives affected by addiction left some in the audience sobbing. Other displays took one's breath away. 

These teens didn't merely learn about the dangers of drug addiction sitting through a lecture by parent or teacher, they did the work themselves, delving into the world of addiction enough to be forever changed by what they discovered. During the talk-back session that followed, teens revealed the ease at which any of them could procure drugs or alcohol in that moment. They expressed the horror they felt when learning of clothing companies glorifying drug use and mental illness through fashion. They talked powerfully about their own experiences with friends and family members who are, or were, or died as drug addicts.

What I'll remember most about that night, though, isn't the performances, the artwork, or the work the amazing young adults put into this. Or making pasta for twenty something people two nights in a row. What I will remember is the teen who ran out of the theater and the two who ran out right after him to make sure he was ok. Who sat with him and said, "I don't know what to say or do to help you right now, so I'm going to sit here with you as long as you need me to. Just let me know what you need." 

What I'll remember is what Epoch has taught these children through Arts Response and other programs, and through the way they treat every single person who walks through the door. The kindness, compassion, and acceptance modeled for and encouraged in all who enter Epoch Arts shines through the actions of these youth. It is this that I will carry with me from that night, because it is this that these young people carry out with them every time they journey into the world, thanks to the beautiful people who volunteer their time and talent to make Epoch the beacon of safety and love that it is. 

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